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Labor Action, 21 February 1949


Why They Confess —


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 8, 21 February 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The mystery of why they confess in Stalinland will probably not be entirely solved until the brutal autocracy is overthrown by the people. Meanwhile conjecture and speculation are rife. But in not all cases is there a mystery involved. In fact, the probability is that in most cases confessions are obtained by the traditional knout and club­ human torture which has a well-founded basis in the notorious frailty of the body.

A story which somehow slipped through the censorship in Czecho­slovakia last week is in all likelihood a description of the “normal” method of Stalinist justice of “trial by confession.” The story appeared in the New York Herald-Tribune on February 11.

“A mother and a son have charged before a state court here that Czech police used third-degree methods to obtain confessions of guilt in an alleged conspiracy against the Communist regime.

“Lubomir Panek, twenty-four, declared he was beaten over the head by police until his head was covered with blood. He asked that his cell-mate be called as a witness to the beating. The court refused the request and promptly granted a demand by the state prosecutor that Mr. Panek be tried on the additional charge of ‘insulting the police.’

“His mother, Mrs. Olga Pankova, said a confession was obtained from her only on threats that her eighty year old mother would be arrested.

“Similar charges were made by several others of the twenty-nine defendants, who are on trial as members of an allegedly subversive organization called the ‘Erkvie’ ... Mr. Panek will be tried on the charge of ‘insulting the police’ in a separate proceeding.”

... presumably in secret.

This little story tells a great deal indeed not only about Stalinist police and law practice but also about the opposition in the new “peoples democracies.”

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